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As the GPL fades

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: As the GPL fades
Date: Fri, 05 Feb 2010 12:31:42 +0100

As the GPL fades

Jay Lyman, January 28, 2010 @ 3:17 pm ET
We’re continuing to see signs that the dominant GPL open source license
may be fading from favor among commercial open source software players.
The latest move away from the GPL comes from content management software
vendor Alfresco, which is moving to the LGPL after originally releasing
its code under the GPL three years ago. The reasoning for the shift,
according to Alfresco CEO John Newton, is the company sees greater
opportunity beyond being a software application, particularly given the
emergence of the Content Management Interoperability Services standard.
Alfresco won mostly praise for its move, and it does make sense given
where open source is going these days. 

I believe the emerging trend away from GPL and toward more permissive,
mixable licenses such as LGPL or Apache reflects the broadening out of
open source software not only throughout the enterprise IT software
stack, but also throughout uses beyond individual applications,
frameworks and systems. More and more open source software vendors are
pursuing opportunities in embedded use or OEM deals whereby open source
software often must sit alongside or even inside of proprietary code and
products. Similar to what we’ve seen in the mobile space — where open
source software and development are more prominent than ever, but end
products with accessible code are not — open source is broadening out,
but it is doing so in many cases by integrating with proprietary code.

We also see some debate about the community and commercial ups and downs
of GPL as organizations contemplate the balance of the two and the best
way to achieve commercial success with open source software. As Matt
highlights, we are seeing a choice of non-GPL licensing in order to more
effectively foster community and third-party involvement, but we also
continue to see GPL as a top choice to similarly build community.

While the debate about community versus commercial benefit may not
necessarily be prompting movement away from GPL, I believe another
recent action may indeed do so. The latest series of GPL lawsuits are
aimed at raising awareness, profile and legitimacy for open source
software. While those bringing the suits — primarily the Software
Freedom Law Center — have exhibited a reasonable approach and settled
with past lawsuit targets, these suits and publicity may still serve to
steer organizations making the choice to other licenses, including the
LGPL, BSD, Apache and the Eclipse Public License.

Another factor is the GPL thumping that took place during the SaveMySQL
campaign as the European Commission contemplated Oracle’s proposed (and
now closed) acquisition of Sun Microsystems and the open source MySQL. I
voiced my concern that the SaveMySQL campaign might jeopardize or
de-value open source software projects and pieces in M&A, but I believe
I’m actually in agreement with SaveMySQL leader Monty Widenius that the
deal and process may end up tarnishing the GPL and its reputation in the

As stated above, much of the movement we’re seeing away from the GPL has
to do with the desire and opportunity to place open source software
alongside, within, on top of or otherwise with proprietary software.
Non-GPL open source licenses are also more flexible in terms of
integrating and bundling with other open source software licensed under
other, non-GPL licenses.

We anticipated this fade of GPL as covered in our report, The Myth of
Open Source License Proliferation. Given its clout, durability and
continued popularity in commercial open source (and with help from
continued growth of GPL-licensed Linux) we believe the GPL will endure
as a top open source license. However, given their flexibility and the
ability to combine with other code, we see a number of other challengers
— Apache, BSD, EPL and LGPL — rising while GPL dominance wanes. We’re
also watching to see whether the AGPLv3 for networked software will
provide new life for GPL-style licensing and community building in
emerging virtualized, SaaS and cloud computing environments.


(GNG is a derecursive recursive derecursion which pwns GNU since it can 
be infinitely looped as GNGNGNGNG...NGNGNG... and can be said backwards 
too, whereas GNU cannot.)

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